Wilderness still in the mix at Royal Bank Cup
Last weekend, the Minnesota Wilderness became the first United States-based team to compete in Canada's Royal Bank Cup, which determines a national champion for players age 20 and younger.
As a member of the Canadian-based Superior International Junior Hockey League (SIJHL), the Cloquet-based Wilderness was eligible to compete for a spot in the Royal Bank Cup. A field of 127 teams started the season under the umbrella of the Canadian Junior Hockey League and five remain. The No. 2-ranked Wilderness started round-robin play against the No. 1 Brooks (Alberta) Bandits, No. 4 Summerside Western Capitals, No. 13 Surrey (British Columbia) Eagles and No. 16 Truro (Nova Scotia) Bearcats on Saturday.
So far, the trip to Prince Edward Island has yielded mixed results.
The Wilderness lost its first two games in the Round Robin tournament, falling 5-1 to host Summerside Western Capitals Saturday in Day 1 competition, then losing to the Brooks Bandits 6-3 in Day 2 play.
They turned it around on Day 4, however, when Wilderness Captain Mike Dietrich lit up the ice to help earn a spot in Saturday's semifinal game.
Dietrich had a goal and three assists Tuesday, earning player of the game laurels in the process, to help lead his side to a 5-3 victory over the Truro Bearcats in day four action at the Royal Bank Cup Canadian national junior A championship in Summerside, P.E.I.
With the victory the Wilderness improved to 1-2 while Truro fell to 0-3.
Dietrich, the SIJHL player of the year and playoff MVP, got the Wilderness on the board 3:43 after the opening face-off as he intercepted a pass while his club was shorthanded and dashed down the ice, lifting an attempt over the pad of Truro starter Shayne Campbell.
However, just 34 seconds later the Bearcats connected on the power play as Zack Evans-Reynaud's wrist shot from the left point beat Gordy Defiel to tie things up.
Dietrich picked up his second point of the opening stanza as he darted around the net, but not before dropping a nifty pass to Mike MacKinnon who backhanded a quick shot low into the far side to put the SIJHL and Dudley-Hewitt Cup champs up 2-1 after 20 minutes.
The Bearcats turned to netminder Jacob Fancy to begin the middle session, but Minnesota went up a pair courtesy of Nick Szopinski, only to see Travis Moore pull Truro back to within one just 33 seconds later.
The Bearcats then tied it late in the session as Grant West wired one top shelf over Defiel to level the proceedings after two periods of play.
In the final frame Dietrich tacked on another, his third point teeing up Jake Larson, who blasted the go ahead tally, burying his 50th overall goal of the campaign, including regular season, playoff and Dudley-Hewitt Cup play, during a two-man advantage
He then finished off his four-point performance by assisting on a Jeremy Johnson empty net effort in the late going to round the scoring.
Shots on goal ended up 23 apiece in the contest.
The Wilderness wrapped up their portion of round robin play Wednesday when they faced the 2-0 Surrey Eagles (BCHL) when this edition of the Pine Journal went to press. They will play in the semifinals at 2 or 6 p.m. Saturday, regardless of the outcome of the Wednesday game. The RBC Championship game is set for Sunday, but the time has not been announced yet. That contest can be viewed online with webstreaming at www.fasthockey.com. See live online scoring through the official event website at www.hockeycanada.ca/rbccup.
Forum News reporters Kevin Pates and Jana Peterson and SIJHL Communications contributed to this story.